With the arrival of November the hedgehogs in our gardens face a particular danger – bonfires! Bonfire night falls on the 5th which is traditionally when they are lit although as the date falls on a Sunday this year there will very likely be bonfires lit throughout the entirety of the weekend.
It’s also the time of year many people will have started to burn their piles of fallen leaves and general garden rubbish.
If you’re planning to have a bonfire of any sort in your garden please spare a thought for the peril it c eates for hibernating creatures and don’t build it until you are ready to start burning. The reason for this is that hedgehogs, frogs and newts will deem a big pile of undisturbed garden debris, twigs and leaves to be an ideal winter hibernation place and will crawl into its warmth to sleep away the cold months. If the bonfire is then lit with them tucked away inside it they have no chance of survival. You may think they can escape before the flames take hold but this is not the case. In particular a hedgehog’s instinct against danger is not to run but to stay curled up so that fact alone would cause it to quickly be overcome by the smoke and to perish.
Therefore if you build your bonfire in advance of the day of burning its important to dismantle it and move it before rebuilding. If your bonfire is huge and cannot easily be dismantled then as a minimum safety precaution please take the time to walk round the perimeter of the pile lifting up the edges and having a good look in to at least a depth of about 60 cm. Use a rounded object such as a broom handle to lift the edges as potentially a tool like a garden fork or spade could stab any wildlife that may be in there.
If you do come across a hedgehog or other animal in the pile then carefully lift them out and re-site them under a low evergreen shrub or within another sheltered part of your garden.
If you are concerned that any hedgehog you may find is too small to be hibernating please phone for advice. Although they try to hibernate when small they will not survive the winter as they dont have enough body weight to sustain them. A guide to the minimum weight for successful hibernation is around a minimum of 600 grams. ( You can check their weight by using kitchen scales.) Anything lower than this and they would have to be overwintered indoors so that they stay awake and eat to build themselves up.
If the worst comes to the worst and you do find a hedgehog that has suffered burns or other injury then please contact the Sanctuary by phone as a matter of urgency as the animal will be suffering. Telephone or text to: 07549 991 920